I've received a fair amount of e-mail lately--form letters from various organizations that have me on their mailing lists; "real" messages from real people that I really know; and messages from presumably real people whom I know only via the interwebs--encouraging me to boycott BP.
In my youth, I was pretty well inclined to boycott businesses and products that seemed particularly odious. And to this day there are plenty that I tend to avoid--Walmart at the top of the list; big surprise--but I wouldn't go so far as to call it a boycott.
And right out of the box I rejected the idea of boycotting BP.
Look, I'm as nauseated as anyone about what's going on in the Gulf of Mexico, about the people who were killed when the Deepwater Horizon exploded, about BP's ineptitude and its putting profits ahead of people. And if I had a really good way to hurt BP, believe me, I'd use it.
But in practice "boycott BP" really means "boycott service stations and convenience stores that carry the BP brand." And that would injure the "innocent bystanders"--the kid working the cash register for slightly more than minimum wage, maybe--way more than it would hurt BP.
Besides, the amount of business I run through the local BP-affiliated convenience stores is practically nil already. I would have to start shopping and fueling there exclusively for the next six months in order for anyone to notice the blip when I then withdrew my business. Not worth it.
My sentiments are not rooted entirely in nobility, mind. There's a visceral component as well. I was jettisoned from my position of nearly a decade with the local office of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (see my previous posts, Said, and Done and What Passes for Christianity) when too many people in too many congregations, mad at the national ELCA organization because it voted last summer to move toward doing away with bigotry against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered people, decided to express their anger by withholding funding from the national body. Unfortunately this has the effect of withholding funding from the local synod as well (for some non-givers this effect was unintentional; for some, not), and the ensuing decline in receipts led to the elimination of two positions (including mine) and the near-elimination of a third.
Innocent bystanders, caught in the crossfire of unthinking and uncaring people.
Well, having been on the receiving end of that kind of thinking--if "thinking" is the word I want--I'm not in a real hurry to practice it. Actions have consequences, and not always the consequences we intend or expect.
Certainly I won't go out of my way to start fueling at BP stations in my community. But nor will I boycott them.
Then if the kid behind the counter loses his job, at least my conscience will be clear.